Monday, May 24, 2010

Sailing Through History.

An opinion article from Essex County Chronicle, from Salem, Massachusetts, US.

The town notorious for Witch trials also has a Maritime tradition which rivals Nantucket; competing narratives literally etched in history.  

The excerpt of Essex County Chronicle Opinion article:

Essex County Chronicles: East India trade fraught with great risk, huge rewards

May 24, 2010
Essex County Chronicles
Jim McAllister

Strolling down the genteel, elegant, mansion-lined streets surrounding the Salem Common or in the city's McIntire Historic District, it's fascinating to think that many of the fortunes that made them possible were derived from Sumatra and the Fiji Islands, two of the most uncivilized and violent island nations of their times.

Evidence of the importance that Salem city fathers placed on Sumatra, whose inhabitants terrorized local mariners doing business there, and its valuable export, pepper, can be found even on the city's official seal adopted in 1839. Standing on a shore, flanked by tropical vegetation and with an East Indiaman under sail for a backdrop, is a depiction of a robed native of the Kingdom of Atjeh or Aachen, located on the northwestern coast of Sumatra.

This island nation was "discovered" by Salem Capt. Jonathan Carnes while on a voyage to the East Indies in the early 1790s. He managed to keep his find a secret, and in 1796 returned to Sumatra on the Rajah owned by his relatives, the Peeles. The cargo brought home by Carnes, which was landed in New York — probably in an attempt to keep the product and its source a secret from other Salem mercantile families — netted a whopping 700 percent profit.

When word of the success of this venture and a subsequent and equally profitable trip by the Rajah finally leaked out, other local merchants began outfitting voyages to the "pepper island." The vessels that managed to make it home without being taken by the generally lawless and opportunistic natives — not an easy task — made their owners wealthy men.

In "Peppers and Pirates," historian James Duncan Phillips chronicles many of the unpleasant encounters between Salem crews and the Sumatrans. Lapses of judgment or concentration on the part of the visiting mariners usually resulted in great loss of life or property. The cunning natives were adept at smuggling their weapon of choice — curved knives known as creeses — aboard visiting ships and then dividing and killing or maiming members of the crew.

After an attack on the Friendship of Salem in 1831 left five men dead and three crippled for life, the American government sent the warship Potomac to Sumatra to teach the locals a lesson. Five forts were leveled during an invasion or by cannon fire from the Potomac, and for a time the Sumatran pepper trade was carried on under less dangerous conditions. But another deadly attack, this one on the Eclipse owned by Joseph Peabody of Salem in 1837, signaled the beginning of the end the lucrative trade.

Equally dangerous, but, like Sumatra, well worth the risk, were the Fiji (or FeeJee) Islands.

In the early 1800s, Salem merchants figured out there was a growing market for sandalwood, which grew on one of the larger of the islands in the chain.

The sandalwood trade was carried on with great vigor until about 1820 when the supply had all but vanished.

But the Fijis offered to speculators another other high profit export: beche-de-mer, also known as trepang. As ugly as it was profitable, this colored sea slug was harvested from the ocean floor by Fijian divers. It was then boiled in large kettles and dried for four or five days in long huts built for just that purpose.

The work was hot, dangerous, and labor-intensive, but it paid off. Beche-de-mer could be sold at a great profit to the Chinese who valued it for its aphrodisiac properties.

One Salem captain, John Eagleston, sold for $27,000 a load of sea slugs which had cost him a relatively paltry $3,500.

The downside of the Fiji trade was the violent and cannibalistic behavior of the natives whom Ernest S. Dodge noted in his "New England and the South Seas" were the "most unpredictable, the most savage customers, the traders had to deal with."

Renowned the world over for their rampant cannibalism, the Fijians struck fear into the hearts and minds of those doing business there or, even worse, those whose ships were wrecked on the dangerous reefs just off the Fijian coast.

Two amazing accounts of life among the cannibals were left behind by North Shore residents.

Mary Wallis of Beverly accompanied her husband Benjamin on two lengthy trips to the Fijis in the late 1840s, and her daily journal was later published under the title "Life in FeeJee." The book includes eyewitness accounts of many acts of violence and cannibalism, and of her husband's near demise at the hands of an irate native.

William Endicott of Danvers was serving aboard the Glide out of Salem when it went down off the Fiji coast. His "Wrecked Among the Cannibals in the Fijis," contains a description of an act of cannibalism that is not for the dainty or faint of heart.

• • •

Jim McAllister of Salem writes a weekly column on the region's history. Contact him at culture

© 2010 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. · CNHI Classified Advertising Network · CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2010. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed., Salem, MA 32 Dunham Road Beverly, MA 01915

Even as Salem, MA celebrates its maritime laurels, an Australian girl marks her solo circum-navigation and Phelpsian feat, that may in some circles shame even the greatest male mariners.

ave Page As PDF

Social Bookmarking
Add to: Digg Add to: Add to: Reddit Add to: StumbleUpon Add to: Furl Add to: Yahoo Add to: Spurl Add to: Google Add to: Technorati Add to: Newsvine

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fiji Reef- From The West Side To West Pacific.

An interesting interactive and collaborative project between inner city students in Chicago and Fiji.

The project's grant request and project description:

From the West Side to the West Pacific: Fijian reef conservation through collaborative student action
Posted by dmlcAdmin 83 days ago

Conservation of coral reef ecosystems is most successful when action is both local and global. We will engage American and Fijian youth in the stewardship of reefs through direct involvement in the scientific process, facilitated by real and virtual learning labs in both countries.

Using a combination of WhyReef, web-casting, video blogging, and a customized social networking site (FijiReef) we will connect underserved Chicago youth and youth in Fiji around the issue of environmental conservation. DML research and our own experience has shown that fusing virtual and real experiences, video production, and social networking successfully engages youth in science and civic action.

Core students will participate via a museum-run full semester after-school program. Using directed activities on WhyReef, students in both locations will gain equivalent background knowledge in reef biology and conservation. Activities will be supplemented by direct contact with marine biologists (mentors Drew and Skelton) and guided visits to museums and aquaria (Chicago) and live reefs (Fiji). Core students will exchange blogs and topical videos on the FijiReef site. Links from WhyReef activities will direct interest-driven Whyvillians to the FijiReef site to engage in collaborative activities with the core students. Core and web-only youth will collaborate to solve conservation problems that are common to Fijian reefs.

This project will not only increase the digital media and literacy skills of both the Fijian and Chicago youth, but will also build and maintain a digital lab in Suva, Fiji. Conservation NGOs (Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area and Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji Country Program) have agreed to help facilitate implementation in Fiji. Final evaluation of this project will be real world reef conservation in Fiji spearheaded and implemented by Chicago and Fijian youth, which could range from organizing coral reef clean-ups to developing conservation education materials for the region.

Name: Joshua Drew
Country: United States
Inst/Org/Co: The Field Museum
Collaborator #1: Posa Skelton, University of the South Pacific
Collaborator #2: Anna Cabral, VOISE Academy High School
Collaborator #3: Mark Westneat, The Field Museum
Collaborator #4: Krystal Villanosa, The Field Museum
Collaborator #5: Beth Sanzenbacher, The Field Museum
Requested Budget Amt: $152,000

Apparently the project has been given a "prestigious award" according to Eureka Alert article.

Public release date: 14-May-2010

Contact: Nancy O'Shea
Field Museum

Field Museum technology project wins prestigious award

Allows students half a world apart to engage in coral reef conservation

CHICAGO, May 14, 2010 – The same digital technology that enables young people to play video games, Tweet and upload videos also can immerse them in a simulated coral reef environment where they participate in science with peers half a world away.

A project led by Field Museum scientists will link students from Chicago's Austin neighborhood to students in Fiji to experience coral reef environments in the Pacific Ocean, engage in the scientific process, and participate in real world conservation.

Students from Chicago and Fiji will collaborate on topics and issues around coral reef ecology and conservation by making and sharing videos, photos, and blogs and uploading them to the web site called "Fiji Reef." Students will get content for these videos from virtual coral reefs, interaction with Field Museum scientists, and trips to real reefs or to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum.

The project was among a small group of winners in a grant competition that attracted more than 800 applications. The 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition is a HASTAC Initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (HASTAC stands for Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory.)

"We will combine real life experience with digital technology, letting teens tell their own stories," said Joshua A. Drew, PhD, a Field Museum research scientist and leader of the project. "Teens have their own voices that need to be expressed. They feel marginalized when others speak for them."

"Digital technology is an integral part of teenagers' daily lives," Drew said. "They keep pushing the envelope and exploring new ways to interact and share with one another. We want to direct those interests to involve them in real science, and empower them to affect change both globally and locally."

The project, to launch next year, will engage 50 core students in Chicago and Fiji. The web site "Fiji Reef "will be open to everyone and Drew said he expects that thousands of interest-driven youth will participate, collaborating with the core students and uploading their own content.

The project will build upon WhyReef, an existing virtual coral reef developed by Field Museum researchers that is part of a larger science-oriented site called The WhyReef simulation invites youth to count and identify sea life, explore coral reef ecology, devise theories about how coral reefs are impacted by human and natural disasters, and to test those theories.

"By collecting data, generating hypotheses and testing them, young people learn how scientists work," said Drew.


On Wednesday, May 12, Field Museum scientists will join other digital media grant winners in Washington, DC to receive their awards. The award event is aligned with National Lab Day as part of the White House's new Educate to Innovate Initiative.

Note to assignment editors: Students and teachers who will participate are available for comment. Call Joshua Drew at 312-665 7483 or email

To watch the video that won the grant go to

To view the WhyReef site:

Save Page As PDF
Zemanta Pixie
Social Bookmarking
Add to: Digg Add to: Add to: Reddit Add to: StumbleUpon Add to: Furl Add to: Yahoo Add to: Spurl Add to: Google Add to: Technorati Add to: Newsvine

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

O.T.M's: The Point Of Twitter,

'On The Media' (O.T.M) program: "The Point of Twitter" discusses the Twittering class in the advent of Web 2.0.

Save Page As PDF
Zemanta Pixie
Social Bookmarking
Add to: Digg Add to: Add to: Reddit Add to: StumbleUpon Add to: Furl Add to: Yahoo Add to: Spurl Add to: Google Add to: Technorati Add to: Newsvine